8 British Institutions Who Turned Down Honours from The Queen

We’re not used to winners turning down our bespoke medals here at UK Medals, but there are plenty of British institutions how have turned down the honor of a knighthood from Her Royal Highness herself. Discover 10 of our favorite figures who have said no thank you to knighthood and dameship. The cheek!

1. David Bowie

1. Bowie

There’s a starman waiting in the sky, he’d like to come and meet you, but he doesn’t want a knighthood. Much loved British icon, David Bowie turned down the opportunity to become Sir Ziggy Stardust when he was offered a knighthood in 2003. Š—“I seriously don’t know what it’s for. It’s not what I spent my life working for.Š— said the eminently cool Mr Bowie.

2. Doris Lessing

2. Lessing

Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing fiercely turned down the damehood she was offered in 1993 aged 74. A passionate communist in her youth, Lessing claimed: Š—“there is something unlikable about a person, when old, accepting honors from an institution she attacked when young…Š—. In 2000, however, she conceded and was awarded a CH (Companion of Honour), apparently preferring this option as Š—“you’re not called anythingŠ—.

3. Rudyard Kipling

3. Kipling

It is thought that modesty prevented Š—“IfŠ— poet Rudyard Kipling from accepting a knighthood and an Order of Merit from King George V. He wasn’t quite so shy about accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, though.

4. Vanessa Redgrave

4. Redgrave

Dame Judy Dench and Dame Helen Mirren may have been admitted to the ranks of honored British Treasures, but the ever-so-talented Ms Redgrave refused her OBE, most likely because of her leftist, anti-establishment sentiments. She did accept a CBE (a step down from an OBE) many years earlier in 1967.

5. Nigella Lawson

5. Lawson

Superstar cook and glamourous kitchen diva Nigella Lawson turned down an OBE in 2001 but kept mysteriously silent about her reasons.

6. Dawn French & Jennifer Saunders

6. French Saunders

The much-loved comedy duo both decided to turn down the OBEs they were offered in 2001. Saunders stated: Š—“At the time, we felt that we were being paid very well to have a lot of fun. It didn’t seem right somehow. We didn’t deserve a pat on the back. It felt a bit fake to stand alongside people who devoted their lives to truly worthy causes.Š—

7. Roald Dahl

7. Dahl

Beloved children’s author Roald Dahl turned down an OBE in 1986, supposedly because he wanted a knighthood instead. Apparently Mrs Dahl was simply desperate to become Lady Dahl and a humble OBE was just no good. Sadly, the BFG and Chocolate Factory creator died in 1990 without ever receiving his knighthood.

8. L.S.Lowry

8. Lowry

Painter L.S.Lowry is thought to have turned down more honors than any other Brit. The artist, famed for his depictions of Lancashire’s industrial landscape was asked to accept an OBE in 1955, a CBE in 1961, a knighthood in 1968 and two CHs (Companion of Honor) in 1972 and 1976. His reason? A strong affinity with the working class and no desire to Š—“change his situation.Š— Very noble.

If you’re planning to award someone with a bespoke medal from our extensive collection, this cautionary list just goes to show, you can never be sure a great honor will be met with great approval!

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